Carbon Footprint of Beef Calculator: By Pound, Type, Steak, Burger, Grass Fed

Woman writes down the Carbon Footprint of Beef while looking at a cow who is leaving emissions footprints on a farm indicating the carbon Footprint of Beef Per Kg calculator.

Have you ever thought about the carbon footprint of beef?

Although you might not know it, beef has the largest carbon footprint of protein rich foods and the highest greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of any food group.

If you’re curious about the environmental impact of meat consumption, a beef carbon footprint calculator can help you pinpoint the exact emissions of any brand or type of cut.

This complete guide to the carbon footprint of beef explains how the beef carbon calculator works, by the pound, type, steak, burger, grass-fed, and imported varieties.

Carbon Footprint of Beef Per Kg: Meat Industry CO2 Emissions Percentage

The beef you eat comes from cattle that are classified as ruminants. Holding a ruminant digestive system,1 cattle store its consumed food in a specially-segmented compartment of its stomach before regurgitating it to their mouths, chewing it down, and finally digesting it.

This process, called enteric fermentation, causes cattle to emit methane through their burps (and other activities). Since methane is a GHG, a high quantity of it in the environment contributes to climate change.

But the cattle’s contribution to the meat and dairy industry’s environmental impact does not end there. The waste that cattle produce also emits methane, as well as nitrous oxide.

Close up view of a cow inside a fenced barn.

(Image: Ryan McGuire23)

Together, these GHGs further add to the overall effects of climate change. Since the production of this livestock and its waste is handled by humans, this effect is directly linked to the beef consumption that results from such cattle.

Additionally, the production and management of cattle also require large areas of land and forests to turn into pasture lands. In turn, these activities lead to deforestation and the subsequent decrease of oxygen-producing plants in the environment.

The measures taken to grow pastures and feed such as the use of fertilizers also emit greenhouse gases and impact the well-being of the environment.

When you add the GHG emissions that are caused by supply chain management, the environmental impact of consuming your favorite cut of beef becomes all the more worrisome.

Due to this reason, you might want to use a carbon footprint of beef calculator, which lets you understand your carbon footprint by each pound and type of beef that you are consuming and offers ways to offset those emissions.

Beef Carbon Footprint Per Kg: Why Does Beef Have a High Carbon Footprint?

Have you ever wondered what food has the highest carbon footprint? Thanks to years of research, it is now clear that beef has the highest environmental impact on meat production and consumption but before you take out the calculator to start determining the carbon footprint of your personal consumption of beef, it is important to understand the general carbon footprint of beef per kg.

In order to factor in the emission of different greenhouse gases, this calculation is measured in carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-eq) of GHGs such as methane and nitrous oxide.

According to a study, the mean GHG emission from consuming one kilogram of beef coming from exclusively-beef herd cattle is 100 kg of CO2-eq.2 When you turn towards beef that is derived from an average or mixed herd that also produces dairy, the average emission for one kilogram of beef stands at 71 kg of CO2-eq.

In both cases, almost half of this emission comes from methane, which runs rampant in typical sources of beef due to their production, management, and supply chain practices. In comparison, one kg of farmed fish produces 14 kg of CO2-eq.

Keep these calculations in mind and follow this practice for other foods as well according to your lifestyle and dietary habits. This helps you reduce co2 emissions from your meat consumption.

If you wish to contribute more to the battle against climate change, you may start by finding out how many trees offset carbon emissions. Knowing this should inspire you to make your own contribution.

Carbon Footprint of Meat Industry: CO2 Emissions Percentage of Animal Protein

The carbon footprint of meat affects the environment through the production of greenhouse gases. When a large amount of these GHGs surrounds the Earth’s atmosphere, they raise the global temperature around the planet by trapping heat across the globe.

When the planet does not get the opportunity to cool down as it is supposed to, it leads to various challenges and disasters that are associated with climate change.3

Since the production of meat emits a massive amount of greenhouse gases, it adds to this effect by a significant degree. To elaborate, global food production greenhouse gas emissions account for one-third of all human-related GHG emissions.

The meat production and distribution industry contribute to approximately 57 percent of these global GHG emissions.4

What Food Has the Highest Carbon Footprint: Chicken or Beef?

The carbon footprint of meat and dairy is among the highest carbon footprint of any food group. According to a study in 2020, livestock management and production for the consumption of meat caused a whopping 57 percent of food production greenhouse gas emissions across the world.4

Out of this food group, beef also tops the list as the subgroup with the highest mean GHG emissions of around 100 kg of CO2-eq per kilogram of beef, while each kilogram of chicken produces around 6 kg of CO2-eq.2

Does Fish Carbon Footprint Significantly Impact the Environment?

When sustainable practices are followed, fresh seafood can be an environmentally friendly source of meat-based protein. The per kilogram farmed fish carbon footprint stands at 14 kg of CO2-eq.2

However, when you factor in the GHG emissions from transportation and modern fish-catching practices such as dragging nets across the seabed (bottom trawling), fish carbon footprint goes significantly higher. The GHG emissions from bottom trawling alone range around 2 percent of global GHG emissions.10

But overall, these carbon emissions still stand lower than beef and other types of meat. This makes fish a good alternative if you do not want to quit consuming meat altogether.

Meat and Dairy Industry: Environmental Impact of Meat Production and Food Production Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The processes associated with meat production and their emissions of greenhouse gases5 contribute to climate change and have a significant impact on the environment.

This is mainly caused by the following factors.

  • GHG emissions through livestock’s natural functions. Livestock that produces meat emits methane and nitrous oxide through digestive processes such as burps and waste.
  • Utilization of the planet’s natural resources. Livestock needs to be fed through naturally-formed and man-made pastures, which also leads to the overconsumption and eradication of forests.
  • GHG emissions through transportation and production. CO2 and other GHGs are emitted through the machinery and fertilizers used in the production and transportation of meat.

When put together, these cattle and livestock greenhouse gas emissions percentage statistics outline how these practices have a negative effect on the planet.

Fortunately, you can get a beef and dairy carbon offset to erase those emissions.

Soy vs Beef Carbon Footprint: Is the Carbon Footprint of Tofu Lower Than the CO2 Per Pound of Beef?

While tofu is a highly sought-after substitute for beef and other meat, it comes with its own challenges that include crop growth and supply chain management issues.

For instance, if your tofu comes from soy that has been cultivated without sustainability in mind, it would have a higher carbon footprint than usual.

Tofu, beef, and vegetables on a woven wooden plate.

(Image: nikluv24)

With that being said, the average carbon footprint of tofu is around 3 KG of CO2-eq per kilogram of tofu.2 However, this impact can get lower if you are getting your tofu from suppliers who source their soybeans locally and sustainably.

Apart from making sure that you are getting your tofu from sustainable resources, you can also turn to foods such as grains, vegetables, and fruits to lower your carbon footprint of meat and dairy consumption.

Chicken Carbon Footprint Per Kg: What Is the Carbon Footprint of Chicken vs Beef?

Chicken has a lower carbon footprint than beef. The carbon footprint of beef stands at 16.9 kg of CO2-eq for 50 grams of protein from the dairy herd.

For meat obtained from a beef herd, the beef carbon footprint rises to 49.89 kg of CO2-eq per 100 grams of protein. On the other hand, chicken emits approximately 5.7 kg of CO2-eq for the same amount of protein.14

This means that in comparing the carbon footprint of chicken vs beef, chicken produces at least 3x lower carbon emissions than beef.

Environmental Impact of Chicken vs Beef: Why Is Eating Chicken Better for the Environment Than Eating Beef?

Due to larger land use, livestock management practices, and supply chain challenges, beef carbon footprint is higher than chicken carbon footprint per kg.15 This is especially true due to the methane production that is associated with cattle that produce beef.

If you want to lower your food’s carbon footprint, ditching beef in favor of chicken can help you make a difference which is why it is important to try and switch to a completely plant-based diet in order to play a better part in protecting the environment.

You can also look into finding the best carbon offset programs or know more about buying carbon offsets facts. You should be able to balance out the impact of your food consumption habits by taking this step.

Animal Agriculture Greenhouse Gas Emissions: How Does Meat Production Affect Climate Change?

Meat production affects climate change in a number of ways. Firstly, meat mainly comes from livestock such as ruminants, whose digestion processes produce methane, and secondly, the waste from livestock also emits greenhouse gasses.

Last but not the least, the fertilizers used for land management and the deforestation performed for livestock pastures also contribute to climate change. When you factor in the environmental impact of supply chain issues, the GHG emissions from meat consumption increase even further.

By looking into carbon offsets purchase programs and getting involved in carbon offsetting tree planting, you can do your part in contributing towards the health of the planet that has been affected by decades of beef and meat consumption. This way, you can allow future generations to live in a thriving and flourishing environment.

Environmental Impact of Meat Consumption: What Are Livestock Greenhouse Gas Emissions? (Percentage Per Year)

Livestock greenhouse gas emissions refer to GHG emissions that are produced by livestock management and production. This includes GHGs that emit from the waste produced by livestock as well as the fertilizers and practices used to cultivate pastures for them.

The annual global emissions from livestock stand at 7.1 gigatonnes of CO2-eq.16 You can cut down your personal emissions in this category by turning to a plant-based diet.17

Carbon Footprint of Beef: Can We Control the Gas Emissions From Meat Production?

Even with limited methane and nitrous oxide emissions, meat production uses more resources than other food groups. With that being said, making changes to meat production habits and executing of additional activities can help reduce the overall carbon emissions and environmental impact of meat consumption.11

This includes measures such as:

  • Limiting the conversion of forests into pasturelands.
  • Using methane inhibitors such as seaweed in cattle diets.
  • Sequestering carbon emissions from manure by composting.12
  • Executing carbon offset by planting more trees in other locations.
  • Investing in breeds that are more efficient at producing meat.

Food Carbon Footprint Calculator: How Much CO2 Does Beef Produce?

On average, a kilogram of beef can produce around 60-70 kg of CO2-eq6 but this figure depends upon various factors. If the beef that you are consuming comes from a facility that is using outdated livestock management practices, occupying a large area of land, or producing exclusively beef herds, then the mean CO2 emissions may increase to a whopping 100 kg of CO2-eq per kilogram of beef.2

With that being said, here are a few guidelines on determining as well as calculating the carbon footprint of beef in its different forms.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of One Pound of Beef?

On an average basis, one pound of beef may produce 132-154 kg of CO2-eq. If you are getting your beef from sources such as exclusively-beef herd cattle, one pound of beef may give off 220 kg of CO2-eq.

It is because the carbon footprint of one pound of beef depends upon the type of beef that you are getting, the supplier that you choose, and the supply chain measures that it uses. This has a large effect on the amount of CO2 per pound of beef produces.

For instance, deforestation in Latin America causes the beef produced in the region to have a higher carbon footprint than usual.7 Additionally, if you are importing Wagyu or Kobe beef from Japan, your beef carbon footprint of imported food will be higher than locally-sourced beef.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of a Steak?

A steak usually weighs anywhere from 200 gm to 600 gm, with the sought-after porterhouse being the largest cut of premium meat. Going by the average CO2-eq per kilogram of beef, this is how much the beef carbon footprint for a steak could look like.

Weight and Type of Steak 60-70 kg of CO2-eq per 1 kg of Beef 100 kg of CO2-eq per 1 kg of Beef
300 gm Ribeye 20-24 kg of CO2-eq 30 kg of CO2-eq
200 gm Sirloin 12-14 kg of CO2-eq 20 kg of CO2-eq
500 gm T-bone 30-35 kg of CO2-eq 50 kg of CO2-eq
600 gm Porterhouse 36-42 kg of CO2-eq 60 kg of CO2-eq
350 gm Flank 21-24.5 kg of CO2-eq 35 kg of CO2-eq
250 gm Tri-Tip 15.-17.5 kg of CO2-eq 25 kg of CO2-eq
300 gm Chuck-Eye 20-24 kg of CO2-eq 30 kg of CO2-eq

By using these calculations, you can determine the closest range for your steak’s carbon footprint and judge your steak’s CO2 emissions by source. For instance, by buying your steaks from a local farmer, you can reduce your food’s carbon footprint.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of a Beef Burger?

Typically, a beef burger can weigh anywhere from 4-6 ounces (approximately 110-175 grams). Depending upon the supply chain management practices of the beef you get, your juicy bite of a beef burger may produce emissions in the following CO2-eq ranges.

Weight of Burger Patty 60-70 kg of CO2-eq per 1 kg of Beef 100 kg of CO2-eq per 1 kg of Beef
4-ounce (110 gm) 6.6-7.7 kg of CO2-eq 11 kg of CO2-eq
6-ounce (175 gm) 10.5-12.25 kg of CO2-eq 17.5 kg of CO2-eq

Carbon Footprint of Beef: What Is the Carbon Footprint of Grass-Fed Beef?

Grass-fed beef refers to cattle who spend their whole life feeding on grass pastures instead of going to a feedlot.8 Besides providing the cattle with a natural source of diet, this also saves the larger occupation of land.

Additionally, this practice cuts down the use of fertilizers and machinery that is utilized to grow corn and other grains for the cattle to feed on.

As a result, this cuts down the GHG emissions9 that are largely associated with cattle on feedlots.

Photo of several cows eating grass.

(Image: Annie Spratt25)

However, studies find that these improvements remain nominal and offer around a 10 percent cut from the usual carbon footprint of beef. For instance, if feedlot-fed cattle produce emissions of 60-70 kg of CO2-eq per kilogram of beef, grass-fed cattle may lower that to 54-63 kg of CO2-eq per kilogram of beef.

This means that while grass-fed beef does lower the meat industry’s CO2 emissions percentage, it still has a long way to go in terms of helping you live a significantly more environmentally friendly lifestyle.

What Is the Beef Carbon Footprint of Imported Food?

According to a study published in 2017, global food transportation causes 3 gigatonnes of CO2-eq emissions per year.13 As a result, the carbon footprint of imported beef or imported food also increases due to the transportation processes and the GHGs that transportation measures emit.

Keeping this in mind, whenever you can, make it a choice to eat locally-grown and sourced food. This helps you reduce imported beef carbon footprint per kg of consumption.

The Carbon Footprint of Meat vs Vegetables: Which Group Creates Higher Emissions?

By far, meat causes significantly higher greenhouse gas emissions than plant-based foods such as vegetables and fruits. It is because meat production not only has to take care of land management and fertilizer use but also has to account for the GHGs produced by livestock digestion and waste processes.

In an average diet, meat can contribute to nearly 60 percent of carbon emissions,21 with over 18 percent of emissions being caused by dairy. In contrast, vegetables, fruits, and grain products combined produce approximately 6.5 percent of all GHG emissions.

What Is Avocado Carbon Footprint Per Kg? Is Avocado Lower Than the Carbon Footprint of Chicken Per Kg?

While avocado is an excellent source of nutrition and a popular plant-based food, its carbon footprint is comparatively higher than other plant-based foods due to its production, transportation, and overall supply chain issues. However, it is still lower than meat products such as beef and chicken.

According to a study, a pair of avocados weighing almost half a kg can emit approximately 850 grams of CO2-eq.19 Whereas, another study claims that 1 kg of avocados can emit over 1.33 kg of CO2-eq in comparison.20

In contrast, the carbon footprint of chicken per kg stands at 6 kg of CO2-eq.

According to climate scientists, the increase in global temperatures needs to be controlled22 and reduced by lower than 2 degree Celsius. Given that meat consumption rapidly contributes to rising temperatures, it impedes the progress that needs to be made in order to save the planet.

Knowing the number of emissions from animal agriculture, some might wonder what actions are taken by neutral companies and how they were able to implement decarbonization. We can all do our share to protect the environment, whether we are doing it as a business or an individual.

After learning about the carbon footprint of beef in your diet, you can become more conscious of your choices and help protect the Earth from the harmful effects of careless resource consumption.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Carbon Footprint of Beef

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Meat and Dairy?

The carbon footprint of meat and dairy combined stands at approximately 14.5 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions around the world.18

Why Do You Need To Learn CO2 Emissions by Source of Food?

Learning the CO2 or greenhouse gas emissions for the source of your food allows you to make informed choices about your food consumption. This goes a long way towards lowering your personal environmental impact on the planet.

What Are Some Key Meat Industry Environmental Impact Statistics?

Meat contributes to approximately 57 percent of all greenhouse gasses in food production, which themselves stand at a massive 17.3 billion metric tonne of CO2-eq.4 This means that by eating meat such as beef and pork, you can contribute to approximately 9.86 billion metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions that stem from meat consumption.

Why Does Meat Have a High Carbon Footprint?

Meat has a large eco footprint because of its consumption of natural resources, emits methane from its waste, and produces other GHGs during manufacturing and transportation.

Read More About Carbon Footprint of Beef


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25Photo by Annie Spratt. Unsplash. Retrieved from <>